Recently Apple, Inc., announced that it will allow colleges and universities to use a special sector within the overall iTunes service to load and distribute course lectures, other course content, and related digital audio and video files. The Cupertino, California-based company calls its new service " iTunes U."
A January 25 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the new opportunity as well as some of the beta testing done at a handful of universities. According to the article, each participating institution of higher education will be able to brand its half acre of iTunes—Apple will host the content—with the school colors, emblem, mascot, or whatever. Participating institutions also will have the ability to restrict access (to individual digital items in the iTunes U space) to students only currently enrolled in a course; or they will be able to make it fully open to all; or they can restrict/allow access at any point in between these two extremes.
Audio recordings of lectures can be made during the live, in-person lectures. At the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, one of the beta test sites, the students themselves actually started and stopped the individual recordings. The iTunes U site contains the following statement: “iTunes U complements learning-management systems, including Blackboard, WebCT, and Sakai."
Apple is doing all this for free, although the fine print on the iTunes U Web site states, “Universities must enter into an iTunes U Service Agreement before being eligible to use the iTunes U service. Apple reserves the right to determine eligibility."
What's in It for Apple?
Perhaps Apple wants to fortify its dominant position in the higher education market. It may have something similar in the works for middle and high schools.
If coursecasting continues to catch on, college and university libraries may experience increased faculty, student, and administrative demand for integrating the course- and campus-specific audio and video content into their reserves systems.
Library reserves started as a paper-based (P) system, then added electronic reserves (E). If audio-reserves (A) becomes the next big thing on campus, I can envision Bullwinkle the Moose™ as a cheerleader at the football game between Whatsamatta U and iTunes U yelling, “Give me a P. Give me an E. Give me an A. What's that spell? Pea!"
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